So I was at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which apparently got the better half of Raw 25 - I've read various reports about how awful things were at Manhattan Center. Here's the unfortunate part - at Barclays, by the end of the show, fans were also infuriated, confused, dead and frustrated.
How could this have been botched so badly? How did two different venues, both able to be populated with stars and legends, end up completely let down?
1. Technical Issues
Bizarrely - and apparently this was an issue for both venues - we couldn't hear what the hell was happening at Manhattan Center much of the time. Barclays had a remarkably bad sound setup for this to begin with - in the upper levels we could hardly hear what talent ON THE MIC IN THE VENUE were saying.
When the Manhattan Center feed was on, we could never hear JR or Jerry, and we could rarely make out what DX and co. were saying.
If you're gonna make half the live event a 90 minute watch party, it's gotta be a great watch party, right? It was apparently an afterthought for us to understand what was happening across town.
On top of that, the Jumbotron screens above the ring - which many of us relied on to get a decent angle on what was happening - often went black and fritzed out. By hour 3, fans were booing the Jumbotron and chanting, "Fix this now." I'm not joking.
2. Bad Use of Talent
Let's start here: Chris Jericho and Ric Flair were in the building and never entered the arena.
The greatest wrestler of his generation flew in from North Carolina... and made what amounted to a backstage cameo. Our crowd was wooing all night, just waiting for his entrance.
Jericho's blip can perhaps be chalked up his relationship with NJPW now and Vince not wanting to give him a big segment due to that. That's pure speculation on my part.
Steve Austin, one of the greatest promos of all time, never spoke.
Eric Bischoff, one of the most important figures in wrestling, might as well have been Harvey Wippleman and in fact said less.
This list could go on and on, and goes hand-in-hand with:
3. Bewildering Booking
This is exemplified best by the moment our crowd was most ready to riot - putting Heath Slater/Rhyno and Titus Worldwide in a tag match in HOUR 3 when guys like Bischoff, Y2J, Flair, AJ Styles, Gene Okerlund et al are in the damn building. The crowd was literally chanting in different areas - "Boring," "This sucks," and "What the fuck," and by the time the Dudleyz came out they had half the crowd ready to revolt. The pop for them wasn't nearly as big as it should've been, and that was exclusively due to the mounting frustration in the arena.
The Revival, who back in August looked like they were gonna kick everyone's ass, lost in about three minutes, beat no one up, and got treated like jobbers. I'd actually be fine with this... if they DIDN'T need to get over again post-absence. Elias is over - great candidate to get beat up by a legend. He can take it. The Revival, after being off TV for months, have returned to... make the choice to fight some guys 2 on 9 and get their asses handed to them. They not only looked weak, they looked stupid.
And while we're on the subject of DX + Scott Hall + Balor Club, that's eight huge pops in Barclays that were bizarrely put at Manhattan Center, where (I'd argue) the Elias/Cena segment would've worked better. I get it, they needed a few legends at the Manhattan Center. Well, they got live segments with nine of them. Barclays got live segments with... one.
Not one of the legendary divas spoke - not one of them was teamed with a current female superstar to get them heat, get them over, etc. Imagine a blip segment in which Absolution is walking backstage, comes across Trish Stratus, and Mandy Rose makes a passing insult at her being over-the-hill. Trish returns during the women's tag match to a huge pop, does Stratusfaction on Mandy Rose, and leaves benefiting herself AND Rose.
Instead we got a line. A long line. And some awkward waves. This was probably, ironically, done for the sake of treating the Diva legends equally, which in reality minimized them.
4. No Surprises
Amazingly, WWE didn't pull off a single surprise - not a Rock promo to speak of, not one return we hadn't heard about beforehand. I suppose this was for the sake of selling tickets. But imagine the pop if Jericho had come out during Elias' song when Cena was getting beat down - and no one knew he was coming?
Beyond that, in what seems like an enormous missed opportunity, WWE shuttled Miz and Rollins across town to Manhattan Center (where Miz interrupted DX after the Revival match), but didn't bother to bring one person from Manhattan to BK, where they would've shocked everyone by showing up.
I was absolutely certain Undertaker (by the way, what was that promo!? is he retired?? I have no idea what the hell that meant) would've gotten a world-ending pop if he had shown up in the closing minutes.
Alas, he did not.
To conclude: look. I get it. Booking is hard. It's even harder trying to do a 'simulcast.' But RAW 25, which everyone in attendance paid exorbitant amounts of money to see, somehow managed to waste its incredible treasure trove of resources, and left both venues - and viewers - wondering what the hell happened.